Updated: Feb 10, 2020
Imagine your home. Doors, walls, personal comfort, safe space. You can be yourself and recharge your batteries within your home because it is a physical boundary to the outside world.
Now imagine your home as an analogy for setting boundaries. Perhaps that home has a quaint fence encompassing the entire perimeter. You know exactly what area is yours to take care of because you have a fence around your home. You have a boundary to the outside world. You enter that world upon your own terms. You decide who and what is allowed inside based on your needs and what is best for you.
Well, so is life, sisters. Without the right boundaries, we are floundering in a sea of confusion. Want to be respected? Set boundaries. Want to respect yourself? Set boundaries. Want to make lasting change? Set boundaries. Boundaries are what you will and won’t do so you can be your best self and achieve your dreams, and is a basic human right in my humble opinion.
And it is OK to set boundaries! You’re not hurting anyone by firmly defining what works best for you. Being a good friend/partner/mother/professional/whatever does not mean you are a blank check or open book to everyone else. On the contrary. Being your best self means claiming what works for you, sticking by it and requiring that others do so as well.
Let’s look at some practical ways to set healthy boundaries. Perhaps you’re already doing these but need some encouragement to stay the course. Or maybe you’ve never earnestly made space to try. Either way, here’s my thoughts on how boundaries will help you, and lead to greater respect.
Step one: Set boundaries with yourself.
First girl, what time is it? Should you be in bed? What do you want to accomplish tomorrow? What do you want to accomplish this year, and in the next decade? You can’t do that if you aren’t well rested. Forget depending on caffeine. Start with getting 8 hours of sleep. Turn off Netflix. Put down your phone. Go to bed. And give the stink eye to anyone that gives you a hard time. Set a bedtime that allows for adequate sleep and stick to it.
Next, did you move your body today? Did you try to build some muscle mass and increase your endurance at least three times this week? Did you break a sweat at some point? If you want your mind, emotions and health to support your goals, you must take the time to move your body.
Don’t have enough time you say? Make time. Stop scrolling through Facebook. Trim the fat from your schedule to allow time for a jog, walk, group fitness, at-home workout video, or whatever floats your boat. Force yourself to do it. Trust me on this one. You won’t want to, then you will start sweating and you’ll be filled with gratitude when you are done. Tell yourself this is a non-negotiable. If the only time you can carve out is at 6am before the kids get up, then refer to the last point, and get to bed early to accommodate. Set the boundary with yourself that you will make the choice each day to move your body in order to be your best self. (Side note to my well-lived friends. It’s never too late to enjoy an appropriate-level exercise regimen. I’m looking at you, mom! Enjoy a walk in that Arizona sunshine!)
Finally, how epic are your goals and to-do lists? When was the last time you evaluated it? Let’s face it. There is limited time in all the days we will walk this fine Earth. We cannot do it all. Priorities must be set, and they need to be realistic. Now is a good time to look at your goals with fresh eyes. Perhaps your true needs and desires have changed. Maybe some of those dusty items on your to do list need to be crossed out. Let it go.
And for Pete’s sake, make sure those to-dos are things that you actually want and need to do, and don’t exist solely because someone else wants you to or you’ve got some notion that it’s what others think you should do. Evaluate each opportunity with this fresh lens and only say yes when it truly hits all the marks. Put up that boundary when it doesn’t.
Step two: Set boundaries with others.
I’m going to start this off with a big one. Did you know you don’t have to be beholden to toxic people? Or relationships you’ve outgrown?
Listen friends, this is a tough one for some people, especially those who are very compassionate and tend to feel responsible for the feelings of others. However, it is perfectly ok and healthy to set boundaries with people who are a source of unnecessary stress. You can lovingly and gently establish boundaries that will allow you to enjoy the relationship, but at a healthy level that works for you.
And if it’s best for you not to have a relationship at all, that’s ok. People change, circumstances change, and sometimes our relationships need to change too. You can set new boundaries. If you need space, insist on it.
Moving on, I’m pretty sure you’re not an Olympic gymnast, so stop overextending yourself. Just say NO! Discern what activities and opportunities align best with your values and goals, and use that lens to pick and choose what you will devote your precious time to. There are only so many hours in the day, and it takes enormous strength to say yes to the little things that are necessary to meet your goals, while saying no to what doesn’t.
For example, you’ve made room in your life for some meaningful volunteer work that meshes with your schedule, but other opportunities are coming your way. Help with another PTO event? Take on another foster animal? Only say yes to those opportunities if you can A) trim something out to make room, or B) you have the room already. Don’t be afraid to say no! There’s only so much “stuff” that can fill your house.
One last idea I have to share with you builds off that last point. Check your notion of disappointing others at the door. Drop those bags NOW! If saying no makes you fear you’ll let someone down, then you aren’t committing for the right reasons in the first place. If you establish a boundary for yourself, don’t feel bad about it. YOU matter. Your goals matter. Your health and wellbeing matter. You are not responsible for the feelings of others, and that does not mean that you are a bad or uncompassionate person. It means you are a realist. Take care of you, and by establishing healthy, defined boundaries you will be helping others understand your needs and respect them.
And as a side note, remember that not respecting the boundaries of others is a form of bullying. If someone reveals their boundary to you, respect it! Respect can be reciprocated, but someone’s gotta start the chain reaction. If your spouse/friend/coworker is telling you they are trying to feel better in mind and body by not drinking alcohol, eating chocolate, downing coffee, or whatever it may be, don’t give them a hard time because you’re not on that same journey. Support, nurture and love… those will always be your best three tools in relationships. Don’t bully me with your chocolate and coffee, people! This sister is functioning SO much better in a caffeine-free environment. Respect the boundaries!
Here’s the bottom line. If you want people to respect you, you must first and foremost respect yourself, and then carry yourself in a manner that is clear to others what you need, what you’re comfortable with and what you will not tolerate. Boundaries will allow you to do this, and are key to fostering and cultivating respect. Be your best, loving self while having the courage to set boundaries that make that best behavior possible.
Peace, love and light friends!
Darcy Castro is the 2019 Elite National American Woman of Service, representing a national pageant focused on community service and empowering women. Cultivating Respect with Darcy Castro is a year-long project to promote the program’s Crown CARES platform (Creating a Respectful Environment in Society). Follow the Cultivating Respectarticles and podcast at DarcyCastro.com, and learn more at AmericanWomenOfService.com.